Interview with

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Audio Transcript

In a 2011 sermon on John 11:1–16, John Piper recounted the story of the raising of Lazarus. The sermon is titled “This Illness Is for the Glory of God.” In it he explained the love of Christ and how Christ showed his love by letting Lazarus die. It’s a crazy story we need to think about. Here’s a clip of what Pastor John said.

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So [or therefore], when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. (John 11:5–6)

He did not hurry to his side because he loved them. Because he loved them, he did not go to them.

Love Lets Him Die

John intends and Jesus intends for everyone seeing this to ask, “Now how is that love?” It is okay to ask that if you don’t ask it with a snooty attitude. He expects you to ask that. “How is it love to let him die? I would like you to come if it were my brother.” That’s a good question. And the answer is very clear in this text, very clear, but not common or acceptable without the work of the Holy Spirit in your life.

Here is the key to this question: love lets him die because his death will help them see the glory of God. That is why verse 4 is here. “This situation is not about death. This is about the glory of God and the glory of the Son through him. That’s what this is about. And since I love them, I am going to put that on maximal display, at great cost to Lazarus and his sisters” — a cost that most people do not want and are not willing to pay. “You are going to take my brother to show your glory.” Yes.

That is where many of you are right now, shaking your heads and saying, “I don’t think I want that for a Savior.” That is where you are. This is one of the reasons why Christianity is hard to believe in for many people, because it defines love in a way that is so different.

What We Need Most

So what is love? In this text, love says, “I love you, Lazarus. I love you, Mary. I love you, Martha. I know he is mortally sick and that I could come and spare him death, but I am not because I love you.” How Jesus? “Because in his dying,” he says, “I am going to get great glory. My Father is going to be seen as mighty over death in a way he would not any other way. So I am going go to let you pass through this horrible experience of losing your brother.” Or you fill in the blank.

Here is what love is: love means giving us what we need most. Most people would probably be okay with that definition of love. Love means giving us what we need most, especially if it costs you something.

What do we need most? What human beings need most is a full and endless experience of the glory of God. That is what human beings need most. Most of them don’t know that. That is why we preach. That is why we share the gospel. Most people don’t know that what human beings need most is a full and endless, joyful experience of the glory of God as their supreme treasure, their all-satisfying treasure. That is what human beings need most. They need to be changed into the kind of people who will see that and then they need to receive that. A revelation to your soul of the glory of God is what this text says love is above life.

Better Than Life

We were sitting in here on Wednesday night singing our lungs out in a beautiful time of praise and prayer. And one of the songs we sang loud and repeated was, “The lovingkindness of the Lord is better than life, better than life, better than life.” And I am sitting there thinking, “Does anybody here believe that? Really?” I think they did. But many people do not. You can tell they don’t by the way they react to death. It is good to cry, really good, because loss is loss to us. It hurts more than almost anything, but not to the dead.

A revelation to your soul of the glory of God is what the human soul needs — seeing, admiring, marveling at, savoring the glory of God in Jesus. When someone is willing to die or let your brother die to give you that, he loves you.

Here is another way to say it, and I am struggling to define love biblically. I don’t care what Hollywood thinks love is. I don’t care what the television thinks love is. I don’t care what you think love is. I care infinitely what love is in this book, because that is reality. Opinions don’t matter. Reality really matters. And here is another way to say it: love is doing whatever you have to do to help people see and treasure the glory of God as their supreme joy.